Volcanoes National Park: Into the Territory of Mountain Gorillas
Nestled deep within the heart of Rwanda, a wonderland where nature’s spectacle encounters the untamed beauty, rests the remarkable Volcanoes National Park.
This is a landmark where the earth’s blazing heart beats underneath the surface, this natural sanctuary of ancient forests and mist-covered mountains holds a deep significance that surpasses the boundaries of only geography.
Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s largest national park and a natural wonder in the northwestern region of Rwanda spanning over 160 km2 of rainforest and also encompasses 5 of the 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains, which include Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo.
The park borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. And this place was the base for the primatologist Dian Fossey located.
Deep within the boundaries of this awe-inspiring natural realm, the endangered and magnificent natural-wonder unfolds – the mountain gorillas.
These fascinating gentle giants of the primate kingdom, inhabit amongst the dense vegetation.
Where their families led by a silverback gorilla, bound by complex social bonds, roam the dense forests with grace in their massive presence.
Witnessing these magnificent gentle giants in their natural habitat is an experience that surpasses the usual, a raw connection between human and wild creatures leaving an ever-lasting mark on the soul and mind.
Not only the mountain gorillas call this sanctuary home, but a harmony of life also plays out across the vast volcanic slopes.
Encounter the rare Golden monkeys as they swing gracefully through the branches, and their colourful coats displaying like rays of sunshine among the rich green hues.
Where exotic birds weave displaying patterns across the sky, and their songs harmonizing with the whispering leaves.
Wildlife In Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park is an exceptional wonderland with diverse wildlife. Primates are found in highland altitudes and other wildlife can be found in lowland areas.
Volcanoes national park is covered by 30% of a bamboo forest spanning over 2500m to 3200m above the sea level. Bamboos trees contain hollow and woody stems, which form the main diet for the endangered mountain gorillas and other animals in the park.
Other vegetation in the park includes grasslands, ferns, lichens, giant lobelia, Hagenia-hypericum, swamps, thickets, shrubs, and meadows among others.
The variety of vegetation facilitates animals and birds in the park in terms of food and habitation.
The Endangered Mountain Gorillas are the top attraction in the park. Numerous numbers of visitors from all parts of the world come for trek these gentle primate species.
Volcanoes national park habors about 340 mountain gorilla individuals in 10 habituated families available for trekking. A gorilla permit costs USD1500 in Rwanda.
Habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes national park include Titus family, Kwitonda family, Susa group, karisimbi family, Amahoro family, Umubano family, Sabyinyo family, Agashya family, Hirwa family, and Ugenda family.
A Silverback Gorilla in Volcanoes
Apart from mountain gorillas, Volcanoes national park is home to the rare golden monkeys. Golden monkeys are at a low cost of USD100 compared to gorillas which is an added privilege for visitors.
Golden monkeys are primate species with a golden fur on their back. Golden monkeys spend most of their time up in the trees and are entirely vegetarians feeding on vegetation, fruits, and shoots.
A Golden Monkey
Other wildlife in Volcanoes national park include the forest elephants, buffalos, black fronted duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs, spotted hyenas, black and white colobus, white colobus, baboons, red-tailed monkeys among others.
Birds in Volcanoes national park
Over 300 bird species inhabit the Volcanoes national park, making the park a birding haven for birding enthusiasts. The commonly seen birds include African marsh harrier, common moorhen, long-crested eagle, grey throated tit.
Also the paradise flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, and handsome francolin among others.
The park offers experienced guides who assist you to spot different bird species and explain their unique features.
Activities to do in Volcanoes National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking
This is the top activity to do by most visitors in Volcanoes national park. The park is a home to about 10 habituated gorilla families that are available for trekking.
Visitors are required to buy gorilla permits at $1500. All permits are issued out by Rwanda Development Board.
Golden Monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking is another awe-inspiring activity to do in Volcanoes national park. Its only in Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga gorilla national parks that you can encounter the golden monkeys in their natural habitats. Golden monkey trekking costs $100 which is cheaper compared to gorilla trekking.
Volcano climbing and visiting Dian Fossey’s grave.
Volcanoes National Park encompasses 5 extinct volcanoes. You are offered a lifetime opportunity of hiking to the top of these dormant Volcanoes rewarding you with spectacular and awe-inspiring views of Rwanda’s rolling hills, Kigali city, Virunga volcanoes and nearby local communities.
Hiking Dormant Volcanoes in Rwanda
Here you get an awe-inspiring experience while hiking to also visit Dian Fossey’s grave, a primatologist who died while making research and conserving the mountain gorillas.
Explore the Musanze caves.
Partake in a safari to visit the Musanze caves in Volcanoes national park. Accompanied by experienced guides, you get to encounter these caves while learning about the mysteries, history and other facts about these caves in Rwanda.
Cultural tours to Iby’Iwacu cultural village
Witness the way of life among the local Iby’Iwacu people and engage in their cultural performances. Connect to the ancient roots of Rwanda through the Iby’Iwacu myths, stories and folktales.
Best time to visit.
Mountain gorillas in Rwanda can be trekked all year long. However, the dry season is an outstanding and most favourable period.
This includes the months of June, July, August, September and December, January to February, when there is low or no rains received and while the trekking trails are drier making the dry season favourable for trekkers to efficiently navigate trails rather than the slippery and muddy trails during the wet season from March to May or October to November.
How to get there
Volcanoes National Park is nestled about 2-3 hours from Kigali, and about 3-5 hours’ drive from Bwindi or Mgahinga in Uganda.
A comfortable 4×4 vehicle is more preferable for your road transfers in Volcanoes National Park. You can also consider a fly in safari from Kigali to the park.
Where to stay
Strictly no accommodation within the Volcanoes national park. However, there is availability of budget, mid-range to luxury lodges situated a few kilometres off the park headquarters at Kinigi.
The most popular budget accommodation includes La Palme Hotel, Hotel Muhabura, Virunga Hotel, Faraja Hotel, Kinigi Guesthouse.
Midrange accommodation include Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Villa Gorilla Lodge.
Luxury accommodation include Five Volcanoes National Park, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Virunga Volcanoes Lodge, One and Only Gorilla Nest Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
In conclusion, Volcanoes National Park is a wonderland where nature’s spectacle encounters the untamed beauty. Explore Rwanda with Friendly Gorillas Safaris today.